Arts & Books: Theatre: Aaah, the wit of les anglais
ARCADIA COMeDIE FRANcAISE PARIS
Saturday 28 November 1998
Although for many years French audiences have enjoyed productions of foreign playwrights' works - Shakespeare, Ibsen, Brecht - they have been deprived of seeing plays of contemporary foreign writers. A change in the theatre statutes in 1995 gave the theatre the possibility to broaden its repertoire.
The man behind Arcadia's admission to the higher echelons of French theatre is Mr Jean-Pierre Miquel, the theatre's Administrateur (Director). Appointed by the French government in 1993, he proposed Stoppard's play to the board in 1996.
So why choose Stoppard for the French public? Mr Miquel is not at a loss for words: "Tom Stoppard is without doubt one of the great authors of today. The diversity of his work, his mastery of dramatic techniques, the variety and originality of his subjects, and his sense of humour allow him to join the ranks of the most inventive and sparkling writers of contemporary theatre."
Stoppard's play, set in Sidley Park, a Derbyshire manor house, switches between 1809 and the present day. The 19th- century lady of the manor not only has her gardener's outrageous landscaping plans to contend with, but also a series of interwoven love affairs taking place in the house.
And so 190 years later, two academics, Bernard Nightingale and Anna Jarvis, are trying to unravel the mysteries of the previous century's events. He is trying to find the answer to Lord Byron's unexplained disappearance, convinced the answer lies in Sidley Park. She is determined to study the identity of the hermit who lodged in the grounds.
In switching between the two eras, Stoppard's play explores the relationship between the past and the present, whilst opening up interesting discussions between the characters about Classicism, Romanticism, philosophy, physics, poetry and mathematics.
How well did it cross the Channel? It translated very well, though much of the script's linguistic witticisms seemed to be overshadowed by the visual slapstick humour incorporated by the play's director, Phillipe Adrien.
Furthermore, some of the French actors tended to offer up a rather melodramatic interpretation of their characters, which at times were inappropriate to the subtler nuances of the play.
The audience's reaction at the end was mixed. Some spectators emerged in a daze, complaining of an over-complicated plot, with tenuous links between the two time frames. Others were more enthusiastic, believing the play to have been entertaining and clever.
Perhaps the words of one of the characters, Valentin, are most appropriate: "Who wrote what and when and why ... is irrelevant ... what counts is ... the knowledge." Or in this case, the play.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre